Blakely: Celtics find themselves broken at the break

Blakely: Celtics find themselves broken at the break

BOSTON – There weren’t many Celtics players who showed up for the postgame scrum with the media following the 129-119 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

That’s not surprising.

There weren’t that many who showed up to play, anyway.

Some will chalk it up to just being a bad game for the Celtics, while others might point to the absence of Marcus Smart finally catching up to them.

The reasons for the loss are all over the map, but the one thing we know is this: the Celtics got punked by the Clippers, pure and simple.

L.A. got whatever shot it wanted and attacked the paint at will to escape with a 10-point win in a game that wasn’t that close in terms of control.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been sounding an alarm of concern most of this season.

“I think teams have outplayed us,” Stevens said after the disappointing loss prior to the All-Star break. “You know I don’t think – I’ve said all along, I don’t think we were all we were cracked up to be during our 16-game winning streak, and it’s probably hit us more in the last month than it hit us before, and teams have outplayed us, good teams have outplayed us; that was the case again tonight.”

Maybe Stevens is right.

Maybe the Celtics aren’t as good as their 40-19 record might indicate.

Those of us who see the resilient fight, the never-say-it’s-over brand of basketball that has become synonymous with the Celtics for most of this season, are indeed searching for answers as to how a team that was so dominant defensively, has fallen off so quickly with no clear-cut signs of improvement.

The 129 points they gave up to the Clippers was a season-high.

The previous high?

That was just three days earlier when the Celtics lost 121-99 to the Cavaliers.

So, for those keeping score at home, Boston has given up 121 points or more in each of their past two games after having failed to give up that many in the Celtics’ previous 57 games.

“I think that the theme here is our defense needs to be better,” Horford said. “We’re a group that we’ve built what we have so far based on the defensive end and we’ve taken a big step back on that, it’s obvious, the past few games.”

And while the Celtics have plenty of time to get back on track, you can bank on this All-Star break providing the players with time to heal, both mentally and physically.

“There’s two main things that you can control in this game,” said Kyrie Irving. “And that’s attitude and effort and if you’re not doing that at a very high level and staying poised and trying to make the best decisions for the team, you know it’s hard to play against. [There are] great teams in this league, so that’s definitely a point of emphasis for our team going forward.”



Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via MassLive.com's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue. 



Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

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Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

CLEVELAND - Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team to address health issues that have included chest pains and loss of sleep.

Lue said Monday in a statement that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is and offered no timetable for his return. The coach said he feels he needs to step away "and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation" from which to coach the rest of the season.

Here's a portion of Lue's statement:

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

"While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season," Lue said. "My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards."

A stress-filled season for the Cavs has taken a toll on the Lue, 40, a former Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers who led them to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season. They are j40-29, third in the Eastern Conference, behind the second-place Celtics and East-leading Toronto Raptors, and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to return to the NBA Finals.

David Aldridge of TNT reports that the plan is for Lue to return in a week. The NBA playoffs begin April 14. 

"We all want great players, we all want the best teams, but with that comes a lot of pressure as well. And what Ty Lue has had to go through this year with that team, with the trades and the injuries and the pressure, it's unrelenting," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "So I hope that he gets healthy and is able to get back in time for the playoffs and help that team win as many games as possible."

Lue spent the second half of Cleveland's victory in Chicago on Saturday in the locker room because of an illness, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn't feeling well. The former NBA guard also sat one out against Chicago at home in December.

Associate head coach Larry Drew coached the second half of Saturday's game, the finale of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Cleveland is back home to host Milwaukee on Monday.

"We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues," general manager Koby Altman said.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford also left his team to address his health this season. He took six weeks off. Medical tests revealed that the 56-year-old Clifford did not have any internal problems, but the doctor's diagnosis was the coach was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

© 2018 by The Associated Press